USA USAF X 62A Vista 640USAF Fighting Falcon gains X-Plane status

Recently it became known that the USAF F-16 Variable In-flight Simulator Aircraft (VISTA) was redesignated from NF-16D to the X-62A.

On 14 June 2021, VISTA 86-0048 (construction number 1V-1), which is operated by the USAF Test Pilot School (TPS), with the support of Calspan and Lockheed Martin, gained the X-Plane status.

The X designation denotes aircraft that are designed for testing configurations of a radical nature. X aircraft are not normally intended for use as tactical aircraft. Following its redesignation to X-62A, VISTA now joins a storied family of aircraft such as the Bell X-1, the first airplane to break the sound barrier, and the hypersonic, rocket-powered North American X-15, which holds the record as the fastest manned aircraft.

The X-62A VISTA started its life as a Block 30 F-16D. Throughout the years it has received numerous upgrades and modifications. VISTA was originally given the N prefix (NF-16D) to denote its status as Special Test aircraft. The N prefix indicates aircraft on a special test programme whose configuration is so drastically changed that return to its original configuration or conversion to standard operational configuration is beyond practicable or economic limits.

USA USAF Test Pilot School 320The X-62A is currently involved in an upgrade programme which will fully replace the VISTA Simulation System (VSS). This upgrade programme will also add a new system called the System for Autonomous Control of Simulation (SACS) to support autonomy testing for the Air Force Research Laboratory’s (AFRL) Skyborg programme. Skyborg is an autonomy-focused capability that will enable the USAF to operate and sustain low-cost, teamed aircraft that can thwart adversaries with quick, decisive actions in contested environments.

On 12 February 2019, Scramble Magazine wrote about the NF-16D VISTA receiving new colours.

Photo by USAF

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